Xifeng, a poor, beautiful village girl, dares to fulfill her destiny to become the Empress of Feng Lu.
Guma raised her sister’s bastard daughter with aspirations lifted from card readings and smoky, incense-filled visions. Xifeng is taught history and classic verse to prepare for a fate that “lies in the Imperial Palace,” but at 18 she escapes Guma’s abusive love and runs away with Wei, her childhood friend and lover. Together, they embark on a journey through the Great Forest and discover friendship with Kamatsu’s ambassador, a little person, and fierce warnings from the queen of the tengaru, “the demon guardians of the forest.” At the end of their journey, Xifeng must enter the palace alone, as lady-in-waiting to Empress Lihua, and learn to navigate the intrigue and treachery endemic among the eunuchs and concubines of Emperor Jun’s court. With every step marked with both violence and poetry, will Xifeng sacrifice love and her own humanity to gain ultimate power? Readers will appreciate the sweeping fantasy saga lifted from East Asian dynasties and endearing characters that are beautifully rendered, but elements of the far-reaching storyline don’t fully intertwine and satisfy. As the story leaves Xifeng poised for Book 2, they will hope it follows through.
A dark and savage fairy-tale epic with all the trappings of imperial Asia. (Fantasy. 14-18)